Jeffrey Eneberi, GC at online takeaway service Just Eat, keeps the start-up fire burning among staff, even as the business mops up rival operations around the world
“Have you seen one of these before?” asks Just Eat general counsel Jeffrey Eneberi, excitedly wielding a red toy racing car. “It drives up walls,” he grins, running it casually around his glass-fronted office.
A glance around Just Eat’s City office space unearths a treasure trove of oddities including a remote control robot, superhero figurines and an enormous screen flashing with real-time takeaway orders from around the globe. It pretty quickly becomes clear this is not the habitat of your run-of-the-mill legal team – it’s more Minority Report than McDonald’s.
For those unfamiliar with Just Eat, the tech company is essentially a one-stop shop connecting local takeaways with the hungry masses in 13 countries, A quick search from The Lawyer HQ puts 18 Italian, 15 Japanese and four Russian dinner options at our now-itchy fingertips.
The business was established in Denmark in 2001 but has had its foot on the throttle for the past three years. Since 2009 it has gobbled up existing takeaway operations in eight new jurisdictions, bolting them onto its existing services in Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland. It now reaches as far afield as India and Canada.
In addition to his general counsel function, Eneberi holds the role of commercial projects director, which extends his remit to the integration of Just Eat acquisitions. He has held the dual roles since joining the company at the height of its buyout frenzy in 2010.
“In the past three years we’ve made a lot of acquisitions,” he admits, “but we’re in organic growth mode at the moment.”
The business certainly seems to have developed some momentum. In total Just Eat has delivered more than 70 million orders worldwide. It generates almost £700m in revenue each year for the restaurant industry and has more than 38,000 takeaway restaurants signed up to its database. Its headquarters in London – split between the City and Borehamwood – continues to grow, now housing more than 400 staff.
The business is among a raft of UK-based businesses mooted for an IPO in the near future, although Eneberi remains tight-lipped on the subject.
“No decisions have been made yet on an IPO,” he says firmly. “At the moment we’re focused on getting bigger and better.”
At 13, Just Eat is hardly a spring chicken in technology terms, but there’s clearly an enormous amount of effort being put into retaining its young, start-up feel. The legal team has unmistakably signed up to this.
Just Eat’s legal department has ballooned from a one-man band to a six-person outfit in just three years. Eneberi pieced it together himself, hiring lawyers of all levels from the likes of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Linklaters and trusted adviser Bird & Bird.
It now features a mish-mash of characters from a range of backgrounds. Everyone in the team is a generalist but contributes their own specialisms – IP/IT, litigation, corporate or US law.
“The legal function is run centrally,” says Eneberi. “It’s all based in London, from advertising to IP infringement to acquisitions.”
It is a lot for such a small team to stomach and, as Eneberi says, “even when the days aren’t long they are intense and there’s a lot of intellectual twisting. There’s never time to look at your watch”.
One of the biggest challenges is keeping abreast of legal regulations in Just Eat’s 13 jurisdictions.
“You may find a solution to a problem in the UK, but you have to ask yourself, how does this work internationally?” he says.
It may sound banal, but something as simple as an opt-in/opt-out tick-box can cause a management headache.
“Just look at the terms and conditions on the website,” says Eneberi. ”In some jurisdictions, approval boxes can be pre-ticked and in others it’s illegal. Changing that involves everyone from local legal advisers to the tech team.”
To jump such hurdles Eneberi has delegated regions to team members, handing them three apiece.
“In each country we’re at a different level of development, and they all have their own queries and issues,” he muses. “Basically, we try to own the octopus.”
At this point Eneberi is gesturing enthusiastically through the glass at a whiteboard next to his team’s desk hub.
“The company has lots of arms and we need to take ownership of and understand each one,” he adds.
The team also aims to be fast, approachable and balanced (or ‘FAB’ in Just Eat-speak). For the GC, it’s all about encouraging dialogue between the legal team and the rest of the business.
“We don’t want our lawyer team to be in an ivory tower,” he confirms.
The constant stream of visitors making the trip to the team’s desk hub suggests the tactic has met with some success.
Just Eat has no official panel but allocates around £500,000 annually to external legal spend. As with his in-house team, for external matters Eneberi has enlisted a small but trusted line-up.
Taylor Wessing has been instructed for data protection and food regulatory advice for a number of years, Herbert Smith Freehills was hired more recently to help with competition queries, while Bird & Bird takes a large slice of the pie advising on developments in the businesses’ jurisdictions.
“Bird & Bird are fantastic for acquisitions,” Eneberi says. “They’ve held our hand as we’ve grown.”
How does he keep the energy level so high? It could be hiring lawyers with sense of ownership – or maybe it’s all the takeaways.
“We order from Just Eat every time we have a lunch meeting,” he grins.
Perhaps some law firms could take a leaf out of his book.
Jeffrey Eneberi, Just Eat
Position: General counsel and commercial projects director
Reporting to: Group chief finance officer, Mike Rowe
Global revenue: Almost £700m
Total legal capacity: Six
Main external law firms: Bird & Bird, Taylor Wessing, Herbert Smith Freehills, La Barge Weinstein.
General counsel, Smart Focus
From commercial negotiations to working with HR and marketing through to my responsibilities as company secretary to the board and engaging with our investor shareholders, as general counsel I have the opportunity to get involved with all different departments in the business.
Our business sits in a marketplace that is filled with competitors and is always evolving. As technology becomes embedded in our every day life, regulation takes a role in every conversation we have.
As an individual contributor and general counsel, I appreciate some of the changes – for example, the proposed changes to data protection laws. However, as a business person, the challenge is constant on where best to assign resources and budget, direct and influence business strategy to ensure compliance and the best outcome for our company and its stakeholders.
Our challenge is a global one as countries and states to the left and right of the EU continue to mature their own laws and protection, sometimes with conflicting results. How is a UK-based company with a global footprint supposed to meet this challenge?
Persistent engagement with the business is one critical part of the answer. To enjoy success, it is important the legal voice is on the agenda and heard.
This is a challenge at the best of times, even more so when technology and law are evolving ever faster, but with the right team beside you and the right attitude towards healthy debate, it is a challenge that can be overcome.